The Countess

The Countess

A Novel of Elizabeth Bathory

By Rebecca Johns

Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780307588463, 287pp.

Publication Date: September 27, 2011

Was the Blood Countess history's first and perhaps worst female serial killer? Or did her accusers create a violent fiction in order to remove this beautiful, intelligent, ambitious foe from the male-dominated world of Hungarian politics?
In 1611, Countess Erzsebet Bathory, a powerful Hungarian noblewoman, stood helpless as masons walled her inside her castle tower, dooming her to spend her final years in solitary confinement. Her crime the gruesome murders of dozens of female servants, mostly young girls tortured to death for displeasing their ruthless mistress. Her opponents painted her as a bloodthirsty" krata" a witch a portrayal that would expand to grotesque proportions through the centuries.
In this riveting dramatization of Erzsebet Bathory's life, the countess tells her story in her own words, writing to her only son a final reckoning from his mother in an attempt to reveal the truth behind her downfall. Countess Bathory describes her upbringing in one of the most powerful noble houses in Hungary, recounting in loving detail her devotion to her parents and siblings as well as the heartbreak of losing her father at a young age. She soon discovers the price of being a woman in sixteenth-century Hungary as her mother arranges her marriage to Ferenc Nadasdy, a union made with the cold calculation of a financial transaction. Young Erzsebet knows she has no choice but to accept this marriage even as she laments its loveless nature and ultimately turns to the illicit affections of another man.
Seemingly resigned to a marriage of convenience and a life of surreptitious pleasure, the countess surprises even herself as she ignites a marital spark with Ferenc through the most unromantic of acts: the violent punishment of an insolent female servant. The event shows Ferenc that his wife is no trophy but a strong, determined woman more than capable of managing their vast estates during Ferenc's extensive military campaigns against the Turks. Her naked assertion of power accomplishes what her famed beauty could not: capturing the love of her husband.
The countess embraces this new role of loving wife and mother, doing everything she can to expand her husband's power and secure her family's future. But a darker side surfaces as Countess Bathory's demand for virtue, obedience, and, above all, respect from her servants takes a sinister turn. What emerges is not only a disturbing, unflinching portrait of the deeds that gave Bathory the moniker Blood Countess, but an intimate look at the woman who became a monster.

"From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author
Rebecca Johns was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1971. She has worked for publications such as "LIFE" and "Woman's Day," and her articles have appeared in "Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Self, "and" Seventeen," She is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and received the Michener-Copernicus Award for this, her first novel.